Smoke-a-Thon 2008: Gusta el sabor Cubano!

raw-cuban.jpg
I don’t actually speak Spanish. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

Still very tired.
Can I write an entire post
using haiku? Sí.

Behold the raw pork:
Juicy, pink, fatty goodness.
Oh, salmonella trichinosis.

rubbed-cuban.jpg
Okay, now I’ll rub in the spices. You guide ME.

Garlic, cumin, salt,
sugar and oregano.
Cubans know what’s what.

wrapped-cuban.jpg
Wrap the spice-rubbed pork well like you’re swaddling a baby, or suffocating a Pomeranian.

Hey, pork! All aboard!
The last train to shnookieville*
leaves the station now.

Your plastic cocoon
only lasts twenty-four hours.
Emerge, butterfly.

*This was what Brian’s mom called “going to sleep” when he was a child.

smoked-cuban.jpg
Le sigh.

Do not lick the grill,
the grates are extremely hot.
(although I did it)

Mop every hour:
Orange juice, and more garlic.
Plus one for Cuba.

How many hours?
I lost count after seven.
Prob’ly a billion.

2525734869_ae5bf83123.jpg
I stuck my whole face into this before the guests arrived. And you know what? They would have eaten it anyway, because it was that good.

Give up the ghost, pork -
you are putty to my forks.
Destiny fulfilled.

sliced-papple.jpg
Not pork. Don’t riot.

Cole slaw is boring.
What’s not boring? Pineapple
with Thai chili paste.

diced-papple.jpg
Confound you, Fresh Direct and your under-ripened mangoes. I shake my fist.

Pineapple, mango,
jalapeño and chili,
The pork is in love.

You think it’s just fruit,
then it kicks you in the nuts.
Ha! Take that, gonads!

How tired are you of the haiku? Because I could go ALL DAY LONG.

We had four whole pork shoulders to smoke. If you have that much pork, why make it all taste the same? So we did two shoulders with a traditional North Carolina-style rub and mop (Coming soon to a blog near you. This one, I mean.) (You probably got that. I’ll shut up now.) and the other two Cuban-style, with a garlicky rub and mojo mop.

Pulled pork is really pretty simple if you’ve got a smoker and 10 or 12 hours on your hands: The meat gets its spice rub a day ahead of time and sits in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, to enhance its deliciousness. The plastic comes off a few hours before smoking kick-off time so the spice crust can dry out, and then the pork hunk is hoisted onto the grill.

Since this is barbecuing and not grilling, we’re going for low and slow: 225 degrees, fueled by lump hardwood charcoal and hickory wood. You leave them the hell alone for the first 3 or 4 fours, then start basting with the mop every hour after that. Under the influence of smoke and low heat the connective tissue in the pork breaks down and the fat slowly melts, basting the whole shoulder in luscious pork fat and turning it into a quivering, silky mass. Of course, you won’t actually see this happen because it’ll be hidden under a gorgeous, garlicky crust. You just have to trust. Once the pork hits 190, it’s removed from the grill and left to sit for several hours until it’s cool enough to be handled.

When it comes to pulling, I actually prefer to use my hands rather than forks, especially when I have to pull 32 pounds of it. When you crack these babies open – the crust that develops on the outside isn’t called “bark” for no reason – the muscles that make up the shoulder fall apart in your hands and the entire bone pops right out, perfectly clean. Then, it’s just a matter of shredding the pork into the size of your choosing and trying not to eat more than you shred.* Be sure to shred some bark into the mix, because it’s full of delicious flavor taste, and add some more mop for moisture and flavor.

*I was not good at this.

Coleslaw is traditional with pulled pork, but I don’t like coleslaw and I thought something brighter would be more fun. I threw together a spicy pineapple relish with mango, jalapeño, thai chili paste and a little sugar. It was light, fresh, tart, spicy and sweet, and went perfectly with the garlic and orange-inflected pork.

Can you tell I really like this pork? I really liked this pork.

Cuban-style Pulled Pork
1 bone-in pork shoulder

Spice rub:
2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. salt

Mojo mop:
8 cloves garlic, put through a press
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2/3 c. orange juice (fresh is best)
1/4 c. white vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Combine all the spices and pat them onto the pork shoulder. Wrap the rubbed shoulder well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 and up to 48 hours. Unwrap at least 2 hours before you plan to start cooking.

If you’re smoking, prep your smoker and chuck the pork on fat side up. Smoke unmolested for 3-4 hours, then start basting with mop every hour. Remove when the meat’s internal temp hits 190.

Let the pork rest for at least 2 hours, then get to pullin’.

You can also do this indoors: Use the same instructions for the spice rub, and roast the pork in the oven at 275. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil to the mojo sauce and serve as an accompaniment.

Pineapple Relish
1 fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1 fresh mango, peeled and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
2 jalapeños
1 1/2 tbsp, thai chili paste (the spicy cock)
sugar to taste

Toss all ingredients together. Refrigerate, mixing occasionally, for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

33 thoughts on “Smoke-a-Thon 2008: Gusta el sabor Cubano!

  1. salmonella is for poultry, iguanas and red cheek turtles when they’re little (not that one should eat iguanas or red cheek turtles which are usually pets).

    does trichinosis have too many syllables for haiku?

    i’m looking forward to the carolina pork recipe.

  2. When I was a child I thought trichinosis was actually “chickenosis” which of course spawned a whole lot of bacterial confusion. Anyway, gorgeous pork :) and I love the poetry, reminds me of something that Jade from C6 America’s Next Top Model would write (not sure if this is a compliment or not tho)

  3. Being from Eastern North Carolina, I can appreciate all of this and I too would have stuck my face down in that pan of pork. Looking forward to your recipe for NC Style.

  4. That’s a lot of haiku. Bravo. I can’t believe you actually used the word “shnookieville” on the internet. That is hilarious. I’m so so so sad that I missed this pork extravaganza.

  5. everyone who commented in haiku, you are my new favorite people.

    everyone who failed to comment in haiku, work harder.

  6. What is with all these haikus
    When it’s limericks that you should use
    You can write it all out
    Without having to count
    And everyone’s just as amused

  7. Michelle, I’m sorry that I couldn’t eat
    Your luscious, porky bounty; this weekend
    Found me in Vermont, where air is sweet
    But porkenings are rare, and thus new friends
    Will have to wait ’til next the stars align
    And form a constellation hitherto unknown:
    Porkulus, the pig- is he your sign?
    Mine too! Perchance we’ll meet quite soon.
    And still, I find myself distracted by
    Imaginings of ribs, and ‘cue, and drink,
    And spicy unripe mango slaw- oh my!
    It pains me now; I daren’t even think
    Of what I missed- the chewing, drooling zen
    Silent, upon a deck in Hoboken.

    (With apologies to you, John Keats, and the good people of Jersey City.)

  8. I could eat pork now
    But when I hear shnookieville
    I think of porkING

    You are doing your best to make me regret telling my brother I’d come to his shindig that got cancelled anyway!!!!

  9. And just think – another name for pork shoulder is Pork Picnic (as though two people could romantically eat all of that. Ha).

  10. Another haiku reply:
    I love pork and barbecue!
    My poem is very lame

    But anyways, seriously, I want that. :o It looks absolutely delicious. I’ve had barbecue on the brain lately and something demands smoking soon. This just might have to be it

  11. Holy Pork Rinds! You can keep Picasso. I want a 16×20 of that gorgeous pulled pork hanging on my wall! It looks fantastic! There’s a little Cuban joint a few blocks from our house and they make this every weekend. There aren’t words to describe how good it is.

    I saw a show on the FN about this Cuban guy in Miami who invented a special BBQ/smoker specifically for pork. It’s called a Caja China. You should check it out.

  12. the kids are crying and whining too loudly for me to even THINK about making a limerick or haiku. but I just had to say I SAW YOUR PICTURE ON TASTESPOTTING!!!!!!! (actually peter spotted it first, so I suppose I will give him props… BUT NOT! ;) )

  13. Hi Susan – that guy did not invent the caja china. cubans have been using those for a long time, so he must have just gotten a trademark for it and the gringos at the patent & trademark office didn’t know any better. but cajas chinas are pretty great. :)

  14. Pork experiment
    No recipe, made it up
    Now I must try this

    I just did one over the weekend, should have it posted by Thursday. I still have a ton of delicious leftovers, but now I want to make another one. My wife is going to kill me.

    Oh, and Brian … everyone knows Limericks have to have the word “Nantucket” in them.

  15. @Crimson: The Picnic is a half of the Shoulder as is The Butt. A whole shoulder has both the Picnic and the Butt together intact. Most often in most groceries (around the NY,NJ area), I only see the Picnic (usually labeled for Pernil Al Horno) and have to purchase Butt cuts from a restaurant supply store or order it from places such as Fresh Direct.

  16. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » awesome shit that i want michelle to have

  17. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Smoke-a-Thon IV: In Pictures

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